This is my first time to be involved in a site beta, and I would like to gauge the community's opinion on this subject.

Certainly, there are many kinds of questions which we could expect to (eventually) be asked on CS.SE; lots of candidates were proposed during the lead-up to the Beta, and a few posts in Meta are still trying to clarify these. Let's assume that topic X, in its entirety, is always on-topic for this site. Is it appropriate to stock the Beta with easy, or introductory, or beginning, or "frequently asked", questions on topic X, so that the site will have a repository of (hopefully good) answers to common question, before a public launch?

For instance, would it be appropriate for me to ask a questions of the form:

  1. I need to show that language L is/isn't regular/context-free, but I don't know how to get started. How can this be done?
  2. I need to show that language L is/isn't regular/context-free using method/technique X, but I don't know how to get started (or I don't understand step K, for each K). How does one use method/technique X?
  3. I need to convert this NFA to an equivalent DFA. How can this be done?
  4. I need to convert this NFA to an equivalent DFA using Kleene's theorem, but I don't know how to get started (or understand step K, for each K).
  5. etc.

, then, after asking questions, give them a few days to collect some answers, possibly add an answer of my own, vote up and select a best response as appropriate?

I feel like doing this - creating a basis of crystallized answers on common issues relevant to introductory CS theory material - would help reduce noise in future questions... or would it be disingenous to do something like this? Is this not the point of the Beta?

  • $\begingroup$ think its fair to ask whatever questions & see how the upvotes go. ppl rarely not this but it seems upvotes are unpredictable. if your seeded questions are not getting upvotes (and from what Ive seen of voting that seems like a definite possibility), then give it up or talk it over in meta. $\endgroup$
    – vzn
    Oct 1, 2012 at 16:29

3 Answers 3


I don't know that this necessarily reflects my own opinion (which is to say I haven't made up my mind yet), but here's what the private beta invitation we got by E-Mail has to say about the kind of questions that should be asked during private beta:

Ask difficult, specific questions — the kind of questions pros and experts ask each other, not the kind of questions novices ask pros, because a site full of pros and experts will attract everybody, but a site full of novices rapidly becomes boring. No easy questions, no survey questions, no polls, no intro-level/basic questions, no unanswerable hypothetical questions.

  • $\begingroup$ It looks like this is the answer to my question. Thanks for pointing this out! I'll likely accept this, but give others a chance to respond. $\endgroup$
    – Patrick87
    Mar 7, 2012 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ What I consider difficult some professionals would consider elementary. I don't know how to make the differences in my head since I'm still in college. $\endgroup$ Mar 13, 2012 at 5:45
  • $\begingroup$ @OghmaOsiris I think you should interpret that paragraph to mean questions that are difficult for you. I.e. don't ask questions that you could easily figure out yourself just to populate the site with questions. But if you've thought about a question for some time, did a bit of googling and still can't figure it out, it's perfectly okay to ask. $\endgroup$
    – sepp2k
    Mar 13, 2012 at 9:47

I'm going to go out on a limb here a bit and suggest that you do try to "stock the site" during the next week of the private beta, with questions that represent a reasonable cross-section of what a CS site might be expected to cover on Stack Exchange.

Please keep the following in mind when doing so:

  • You should at least have an interest in the topic sufficient to recognize and encourage high-quality answers.

  • You can look to other sites on the network (and proposals on Area51) for CS questions that are poorly served or off-topic, but don't copy them verbatim - ask clearly, and with an explicit CS focus.

  • A few good beginner and intermediate-level questions are useful as examples to actual beginner and intermediate users. Don't try to fake it though - use questions from students you know, or your own past.

  • Applied CS should be a goldmine for questions that will give the site more breadth without sacrificing quality. If you can encourage these early on, there are a bunch of folks currently waiting on their own proposed sites who could join you here.

Remember, the goal here isn't to pad out the numbers - it's to have a site that appears as full and welcoming as possible when it goes public. Cherry-picking "easy" questions won't accomplish this, but that doesn't mean you can't - or shouldn't - "stock" the site with exemplary questions.


What sepp2k says, but I think we should be open towards question by real novices; those we should answer in a pro, but helpful way. Being friendly towards novices is essential for long-term success of the site.

I think the advice cited mainly concerns experts; we should avoid to post questions below our level just to generate many questions.


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